REVIEW: ‘Alice In Borderland’ Volume 2

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Alice in Borderland Volume 2 - but why tho

Alice in Borderland is just the kind of death game manga that we haven’t seen out in the US for some time. Originally published in Japan in 2011, the series was created, written, and illustrated by Haru Aso (ZOM 100: Bucket List of the Deadand has been adapted into a live-action series released in the US exclusively on Netflix. With the English release, fans of the series have gotten a chance to see where it all began, and the adventure has been very different, offering a story that feels fresh even if you binged the entire live-action (in a good way). Now with Alice in Borderland Volume 2, we’ve hit one of the series’ most emotional moments: hide and seek.

The series is published and localized in English by VIZ Media through its VIZ Signature imprint. The English translation and adaptation comes from Jonah Mayahara-Miller and features touch-up art and lettering by Joanna Estep.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, it centers on 18-year-old Ryohei Arisu, a high school student utterly annoyed with life. When a strange fireworks show transports him and his friends, Karube and Segawa, to a parallel world, Ryohei thinks all his wishes have come true. But this new world isn’t an empty paradise, it’s a vicious game that they need to win in order to stay alive. Last volume, the three managed to survive thousands of training fire arrows and received a few days visas to keep them alive. Then, a vicious game of tag introduced new characters, new twists, and a higher pace.

Now, in Alice in Borderland Volume 2, after completing two games, Arisu feels like he might be getting a handle on how his new world works. Chota and Shibuki’s visas are expiring soon, so the group doesn’t have time to be picky about their next match. And the arena they stumble upon is a lesson in just how treacherous the rules in Borderland can be as they draw a Hearts card.

Each suit represents a different kind of game type: Diamonds are Intelligence games, Clubs are games of Balance, Hearts are all psychological, and Spades are games of physical strength. What begins as a simple concept, hide and seek, becomes terrifying as the friend group and their new friend pull Hearts. Meant to break them mentally, hide and seek becomes a painful exposure of old wounds while creating new ones.

Aso showcases his ability to construct conflict and connection. As Arisu, Karube, and Segawa fight each other to live, they air their grievances, embrace their deaths, and ultimately decide which among them gets to live. It was painful in the series, and it’s painful on the page. While Aso can build horror and tension, it’s here that his real skill for character relationships comes into focus. As we move into the next part of the volume, we see a shift in tone.

Where there was adventure and relief from the world, there is now only depression and fear as Arisu is crippled by survivor’s guilt. Saved by Usagi, Arisu moves forward. At this point, it should be pointed out that Aso’s writing of the only other woman substantially shown in the series was questionable. Sex first and character second, she felt one-note and flat in stark contrast to the characters she’s surrounded by. That said, this changes with Usagi, whose competence and backstory make her a solid addition to the story.

In the back half of Alice In Borderland Volume 2, we move into a different set of circumstances: The Beach. A commune of players all collecting cards to move towards a common goal. We’re introduced to more characters and given more hypotheses about the game, the gamemasters, and see politics beginning to take shape. A new dynamic for the series, the back half of the manga almost feels like a different series entirely. But that isn’t a bad thing.

Overall, Alice in Borderland Volume 2 is good. With a few hiccups along the way, this is a series that remains a must-read for death game fans and, with this volume, fans of emotional tension and friendships.

Alice In Borderland Volume 2 is available wherever books are sold physically and digitally June 21, 2022.


Alice in Borderland Volume 2 
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TL;DR

Alice in Borderland Volume 2 is good. With a few hiccups along the way, this is a series that remains a must-read for death game fans and, with this volume, fans of emotional tension and friendships.